When I published my first book, I had no idea what an author platform was. And I didn’t care. I worked a full-time job doing other things than writing and I loved what I did. There were days I hated my customers and co-workers and had to sit in my car and cry because of office cruelty, but I was passionate about what I was doing to help my community. So, when I published my first book I was like “Whatevs” about whether or not anyone purchased it. My son had read it and thought it was fabulous and that was good enough for me at the time.
People did purchase it, but not as many as I thought would have. That was fine, I was still working full-time on a more stable career. However, as I was curious how to increase sales (more out of curiosity at that point) I started researching what was necessary and the words which kept coming up were “author platform”. “Well, heck.” I thought. “Where do I get one of those?”
Now, it’s no surprise that I publish under a pseudonym. I talk about it all the time. And at the time of my first publishing one of my reasons for publishing under a pseudonym was because of my work, I didn’t want said tear-causing co-workers to know that I had published or share that information with anyone else. And I didn’t want the subject of my books to interfere with my career. I also didn’t want people to recognize me as an author if we met in person. So many people in my small community recognized me as myself and I didn’t want their racist hate-filled garbage to negatively influence how others viewed my books. What that means is that absolutely no one knew who Delilah Bluette was except for my son and my husband (then fiance).
I had no author platform. I had no one who recognized me. My books were just another self-published author’s contribution to an admittedly already bloated market. Whatever. I had achieved my goal of publishing before my expiration date. However, I wasn’t selling as many books as I wanted to. I wasn’t leaving my son with a legacy which could support him and encourage him in his goals to write and publish his books also. Something had to change.
Apparently, this author platform thing is a big deal. It’s how people find your book and decide that it’s good to read. I always found books by entering a search term for something I was interested in and waiting for Amazon, or the library search function to spit out stuff related to it. Or I walked the aisles of bookstores and libraries reading the covers and random pages of books until I found one (…or thirty. I know. I have a problem. That’s why I’m not allowed in libraries or bookstores unsupervised.) which piqued my interest.
But, while I’m not unique in the way that I search for my next read, that’s not the way many people find their books. A lot of people read books that are already popular, or books that seem popular. A lot of consumers don’t seek out books for themselves based on obscurity or interest but based on what advertisement happened to catch their eyes. Then of course, there’s the ridiculous way that search engines now rank things by popularity instead of by what the actual heck you are looking for. Of course, this is something I had already known deep down in the advertising core of me, yet I hadn’t really internalized it with regards to getting my books read.
When I first worked in advertising, I worked in product and consumer research. My technological skills were basically only what I needed to do my job. I typed wicked fast but was all about finding out what people wanted. My second career in advertising was as a freelance copywriter. I was able to write copy customers and consumers liked, but I didn’t fully understand the internet, its potential, or even how to use it. That was ten and twenty years ago. I’ve learned a lot of things since then and when I started to really advertise my books, I decided that I had to incorporate what I had learned.
Places to Build Your Author Platform
There are a few basic places online where author platforms are easy to build and maintain.
Blog – A blog with evergreen content (content which will remain relevant regardless of the year) is the number one place for building an author platform. Follow my blog here.
Facebook – A huge chunk of the reading population have accounts on Facebook and if you want to connect with like minded writers and readers this is the place to do it. Can be linked to blogs so that blog posts are auto published on Facebook. Check out my Facebook here.
Twitter – Twitter has an enormous #WritingCommunity and there are a lot of people there to help new authors and established authors spread the word about their books and brand. Can also be auto linked to blogs so that your blog posts are auto published on Twitter links. Follow me on Twitter here.
Pinterest – Pinterest also has a writing community, but most interactions are reduced to re-pining other people’s pins or hoping they will re-pin yours. However, Pinterest accounts can be linked to blogs so that your blog posts are auto pinned to your Pinterest account increasing the amount of people who will see your posts (and your books if you choose to pin those also). Take a look at my Pinterest here.
LinkedIn – Writers network with other writers, publishers, and other professionals involved in the writing community on LinkedIn. It’s a great place to truly network professionally and not just sell books. Can be linked with a blog so that posts will be auto posted. Network with me on LinkedIn here.
Instagram – Depending on what kind of books your write will determine how you use Instagram. You can advertise books with the #bookstagram, or you can post photos of your travels and food from places you’ve eaten if you are a food blogger, restaurant reviewer. If you write comics it’s the perfect place to add sneak peaks into upcoming releases as they are in progress.
Goodreads – Goodreads is a platform dedicated exclusively to book talk. They also offer advertising and giveaway support, but it’s pricy. Can be linked to blogs so that your blog posts are auto posted. Probably the greatest thing about Good reads is the peer review groups where authors can get their book reviewed by other authors.
AllAuthor – AllAuthor is similar to Goodreads, but with a much more developed support system for authors. They are there to help authors sell books, whereas Goodreads is there for readers to find and discuss books. The platform also has a feature which allows authors to know if they’ve followed or connected with a fellow author on all of the social media platforms they are both linked to.
Bookbub – Another platform similar to Goodreads. Mostly for books reviews. But Authors can build a following by regularly reviewing other authors’ books.
ProlificWorks – Authors can offer their books in part or in whole free to others. This can get books read and may help spread books by word of mouth.
Ko-Fi – Is fantastic. I’ve only recently discovered it and would have been using it a lot if I had realized it existed. This platform allows people to donate money to a creators of content towards specific goals.
YouTube – Many authors use YouTube to release author readings of excerpts of their books for people to listen to. I use it for my art as well.
Each platform requires a different technique for building an audience. When I was researching how best to go about it, a lot of other authors recommended doing it one at a time. Start with one platform, build an audience then once you had the hang of that platform, start a new one and add that into your social media schedule. I’m going to admit, that is how I did it myself. And it didn’t work. Why?
There is a plethora of reasons why an author should start as many of their platforms at the same time as possible.
- When someone likes your stuff and starts to follow you on one platform, they pretty immediately look for where else they can network with you. If you’ve only got the one social media site or just a blog, you will miss out on networking with them later when you do start up your other social media accounts.
- Age. The older an account is, the longer it’s been established, the more people are inclined to believe it is a genuine account. This is especially true with blogs. A website’s “authority” is influence by a number of factors including how many people read it per month, how many backlinks it has, and (you guessed it) how old it is. The sooner an author starts their website or blog, the better. Honestly, having the website up is more important and as long as you can add a blog later that will be fine. I just don’t recommend shunting any fans to a website which isn’t fully functional. (Thank you TNG for the mental image that phrase just conjured.)
- If you are using a blog to build your author platform, you can link most of the other social media accounts I’ve listed here to that blog and have your blog posts auto published to your social media. If you do not create all of your accounts at once, you will need to go back and manually republish all your blog posts if you want to share them on social media.
- Many of these social media platforms can be used the same way, there’s not a steep learning curve. If you can master one, you can master them all relatively quickly.
- Presenting yourself as an author on multiple social medial sites at the same time can help you build a wider reaching audience faster because you won’t have all the same people following you on all of your different accounts.
- While connecting with authors can help you gain numbers in your follower count, it’s not going to gain you readers necessarily. I have over 2,300 followers at the time of writing this post. Only a fraction of those have read my books. Even less have actually purchased my books. None of them have reviewed my books. See where I’m going with this?
- Big publishing houses used to only look at the number of followers an author had to see what kind of platform they had for potential readership. Since so many authors tried to game the system by helping each other build their author platforms by following each other, author platforms consisting mostly of other authors don’t mean a whole lot anymore. Especially in light of the fact that it doesn’t translate into book sales (See #6.)
These are the things I wish I knew about building my author platform before I started. Interacting with the writing community is great for professional networking and making creative friends. But it doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes to sales. If you are going to put a lot of effort into building an author platform, do it with the intention of gathering readers to you, not just other authors. These are the things I wish I knew before starting to build my author platform. I’ll talk more about how to attract readers to your platform in another post, because slowly but surely, I am now gathering readers to my platform.
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